Tuitions Gone Wild

It’s like a scene out of “Girls Gone Wild,” except instead of pretty co-eds misbehaving, it’s the college administrators. As a result of this year’s tuition and fee increases, Virginia undergraduate students can expect to pay on average 7.3% more in 2008-09 than they did the prior year. That translates into an additional burden of $499 more per student, according to the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV).

The latest round of hikes perpetuates a decade-long trend of saddling students and their parents with ever-escalating bills for higher education. After adjusted for inflation, the annual average increase for in-state undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees is 3.1 percent at four-year institutions over the past decade, calculates SCHEV in its report, “2008-09 Tuition and Fees at Virginia’s State-Supported Colleges and Universities.

Eleven institutions complied with the requirements of of the General Assembly’s Tuition Moderation Incentive Fund, restraining their tuition hikes in order to qualify for $17.5 million to be shared by qualifying schools. But six of the largest universities — Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech, George Mason University and the Virginia Community College System — opted out.

The tuition-moderation fund will provide participating schools a total of $17.5 million for limiting in-state undergraduate tuition and instruction-related fee increases to no more than 4 percent in 2008-09.By contrast, Virginia Tech is goosing its tuition, fees and charges upward by 9.4 percent, W&M by 8.7 percent and UVa by 7.3 percent.

The usual response of universities is that they jack up their fees to compensate for cuts in state assistance. There is something to that argument — but it’s only part of the explanation. This year, the General Assembly boosted state aid by 2 percent. Inflation over the past year has run about 5 percent. Clearly, the legislative assistance was inadequate to cover the higher costs. But, as has been the pattern for just about forever, the six largest universities hiked tuition and fees significantly faster than the inflation rate.

Bacon’s bottom line: Tuitions and fees at Virginia’s most prestigious public institutions are out of control. Boy, am I glad two of my three children have graduated. Only one to go. But I shudder to think what a university education will cost in another eight years.

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7 responses to “Tuitions Gone Wild”

  1. Groveton Avatar

    Virginia’s univerities are living in the past. Many are single campus dinosaurs. They sit in their “academical villages” pretending that it’s 1908 instead of 2008. They pile up endowment dollars but raise tuitions by more than the rate of inflation each and every year. Meanwhile, some are slowly sinking in the rankings.

    Here’s my idea – sell the University of Virginia to the UVA endowment. Sell everything – the Rotunda, Cabell Hall, the athletic facilities – everything. Maybe $10B? The endowment can use its cash and borrow some money against the real estate value and the cash flow from future tuitions. There are plenty of excellent private colleges in the United States – Harvard, Duke, etc. In fact, all of the Top 20 universities in the US are private. All of them. UVA can become one of those colleges.

    Virginia can use the money raised by selling UVA to consolidate and expand Virginia Tech. George Mason and James Madison should become campuses of Virginia Tech. New campuses should be built in SW Virginia and the Southside. The tobacco settlement money should be used as part of this increased VT reach. A scholarship should be established for the brightest students in Virginia – regardless of where they live and regadless of how much money their families have. These scholarships would allow the selected students to pursue a broad education including some study abroad. The cost of the scholarship would be accumulated and charged as a loan to the student. However, the loan would be forgiven if the student would agree to work at the state’s direction in occupations and in locations determined by the state. Over a period of years the loan would be forgiven. For example, the graduate with a biology degree from the program might be assigned to alternate energy research at a facility in Wise County (using some of the tobacco settlement money). The student would see 20% of his or her loan excused for each year they lived and worked in Wise County. The state would also have the option of selecting promising employees and sending them to graduate school under the same type program.

    If the state can sell its roads to private enterprises I guess it can sell UVA to the endowment that (fails to) fund it.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    On selling U.Va., how would you compensate taxpayers who have contributed mightily to the school since the 1800s?

    Peter Galuszka

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Jim Bacon:

    A framiliar theme for you. Your are right but what to do about it. Just lowering the rate of increase in tuition and fees will not get the job done.


    I like your thinking. Perhaps “VA Tech” is not the right name for the new Commonwealth Wide Higher Education System but other wise…

    Be sure to add the underperforming Community College system to the mix. It must become a real Community College system with a Unit in every Balanced Community.

    The more important issue is that this higher education problem is just the tippie-tippie-top of a bigger issue:

    A technology based “modern” society that is sustainable is VERY expensive.

    If citizens are to have well educated adults — you know, the creative class and all that — all citizens (and all Enterprises) are all going to have to pay a lot more for the process, however it is run.

    The same is true for all the other attributes of a sustainable society.


  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m probably wrong but when I look at the “public” universities in New York and California and other states and how they operate especially with regard to providing accessibility to their taxpayers education needs and I look at Virginia’s “public” universities – it appears to me that they are operated more like private institutions with their own insular policies …. rather than functioning as taxpayer-supported institutions.

    Any high school student in Virginia who graduates with an A or B average is, in my mind, ENTITLED to attend his/her taxpayer-supported State univeristy of his/her choice – at a reasonable rate and at a subsidized means-tested rate

    ….. PERIOD….

    no if, ands, or buts…..

    Our taxpayer-funded Universities need to operate … LIKE they are taxpayer-funded entities.. that have responsibilities to the Virginia residents.

    Now.. folks can tell me how screwed up this view is….

  5. Spank That Donkey Avatar
    Spank That Donkey

    This is not a decades long occurrence. Governor Gilmore’s first act as Governor was to form a Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education.

    He brought in the Deans, El Presidente’s ect, and said I want your four year plan for buildings and programs. We’re flush with cash (which VA was) and we’re going to fund those programs in exchange for a 20% decrease in tuition that was frozen for four years.

    It has only taken four years of Warner, and two of Kaine to double tuition on most campuses in Virginia!

    It is rediculous to say that a degree in math, literature, journalism, psychology etc. requires anything more than good professors and books!

    The only thing being created by these little cities we call campuses now are huge, huge student loan balances, that weigh on the overall economy.

    I am so glad you did this post!

  6. Groveton Avatar

    On selling U.Va., how would you compensate taxpayers who have contributed mightily to the school since the 1800s?

    How does the state compensate taxpayers who contributed mightily to the beltway before selling it to Flour / Transurban? They don’t.

    I guess the compensation is the $10B that goes into state coffers from the UVA endowment after the endowment buys UVA from the state. Under my plan that money is then used to fund a much broader public education system including a Peace Corps like scholarship program to educate the state’s “best and brightest” and encourage those same “best and brightest” to work in economically disadvantaged parts of Virginia.

    The University of Virginia is like an overpriced wrist watch – it’s value stems from its appearance and snob appeal – not its ability to tell time.

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